Having had a day off to stew about their latest outing, the Nashville Predators have plenty to look forward to when the Calgary Flames come calling on Tuesday.
The Predators (43-28-5, 91 points) hold one of the two Western Conference wild-card spots, tied on points with the Dallas Stars, and are looking to rebound from an 8-3 shellacking at the hands of the visiting St. Louis Blues on Sunday.
The Pacific Division-leading Flames (47-20-9, 103 points) offer a sturdy test.
“It’s a playoff mentality right now,” Nashville captain Roman Josi said. “We have to look forward. We’ve definitely got to correct things. It’s been two out of the (last) three games that we didn’t play well. There’s a lot of things we have to look at and do better, and the next game is huge. That’s how it’s going to be for the rest of the regular season.”
Nashville’s loss certainly is the kind that can snap a team into focus. The Predators opened the scoring and had a lead until late in the first period, but then surrendered seven second-period goals — a franchise record for most allowed in a period.
“We got off to a really good start, and to come out of the first period 1-1, I felt we deserved better than that,” Predators coach John Hynes said. “Some of the looks that we had in the first, they had some similar looks in the second, but the difference really in that part was they capitalized on some of the good looks that they had and we didn’t capitalize on some of the very similar looks that we had.”
Josi added, “I actually thought we played a pretty good first and had a lot of chances … but in the second period, we just fell apart. We gave them so many chances. Odd-man rushes everywhere. We left our goalies out to dry, and we got embarrassed in the second period.”
The Flames arrive in Nashville after a 5-2 road victory over the Chicago Blackhawks on Monday, which gives them seven victories in eight outings.
“You clinch a playoff spot two nights ago, travel all day yesterday. It was a hard game to play,” Flames coach Darryl Sutter said postgame. “It’s a game where the kids on the other side are going to try and come out and show their worth, and they did.”
Calgary’s Dillon Dube opened the scoring 22 seconds into the affair, and yet again the line of Johnny Gaudreau, Elias Lindholm and Matthew Tkachuk made a huge mark.
Tkachuk collected a pair of assists to give him 98 points on the season, while Gaudreau scored twice to reach 107 points — which ties him for fourth most in a season in franchise history. He won’t reach the franchise record of 131 set by Kent Nilsson in 1980-81, but second on the list is Joe Mullen’s 110 in 1988-89. With six games remaining, Gaudreau has a chance to surpass that.
If that weren’t enough, Gaudreau, who has a plus-61 rating, has 85 even-strength points, the most by a player since Jaromir Jagr collected 95 in 1995-96.
“You don’t do that by yourself,” Gaudreau said. “Not only our line, but our defense has done a great job jumping in the rush all year, making plays.”
–Field Level Media